Ridiculous

“And thank you God for all the ridiculous things you do!”

Years ago, when our oldest daughter was a preschooler, she said a prayer that continues to speak to me almost two decades later. She was going through the normal list of thank yous, Thank you for this, thank you for that, thank you for . . .

When she got to the end of her list she said something that caught our attention.

“And thank you God for all the ridiculous things you do!”

At first I thought this was a cute, funny misuse of an ununderstood word by a young child, but the more I thought about it, the more it began to dawn on me that I was the one who didn’t understand.

Meriam-Webster defines ridiculous this way:

arousing or deserving ridicule: extremely silly or unreasonable: absurd, preposterous, ludicrous.

When you look at scripture, it does seem to abound with absurdities:

Paul tells the Corinthians:

For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

James says:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Seriously?

And what about the words of Jesus:

If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. (Luke 17:33)

When Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be “born again,” I believe Nicodemus found that to be a bit preposterous. Jesus also spoke of loving your enemies, blessing those who persecute you, but hating your father and mother. And what about the verses where he mentions gouging out eyes and cutting off hands if they cause you to sin. (John 3:1-21, Matthew 5, Luke 14:26)

Unreasonable. Ridiculous.

Jesus words often aroused ridicule among the crowd.

The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?” John 12:31-34

How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?

Jesus

The prince who became a pauper.

The mighty who became weak.

The served who became a servant.

The worshiped who became rejected.

The sinless who became sin.

The one who died so we can live.

It’s preposterous. Absurd. Silly.

Why should I gain from his reward?

I do not have an answer.

But this I know with all my heart.

His wounds have paid my ransom.*

It defies human wisdom. It’s Ludicrous. It’s Ridiculous.

And so we pray, Thank you, God, for all the ridiculous things you do!

Tami Lowman

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*How Deep The Father’s Love for Us (Stuart Townend)

 

Peace Be With You

. If God had not protected my grandmother, who loved him so dearly, how could I trust him to keep me safe?

When the phone rings unexpectedly in the middle of the night, it’s never good news.  Kenny and I had only been married a few months when the call came.  My grandmother had been assaulted in her home. She often traveled by bus from Arkansas to Texas or Florida to visit family.  We worried about the “kind of people” she might encounter at the bus stations and what could happen there, but not at her home located in a small farming community with very little crime. We thought that was a safe place.

We grieved for the pain, physical and emotional, that my grandmother experienced.  We were angry. We wanted the man who committed this crime to see justice.  We now were not only concerned about her safety when she traveled, but at all times.  Those feelings and responses weren’t surprising.  What was unexpected was the fear that began to grow and fester in my own heart.  A fear that lurked in the day as well as the night.

I knew in my head that a relationship with Jesus was not a guarantee of personal safety.  I am sure I had even said so out loud, but now I realized the reality of my heart was that I felt my grandmother had earned a right to be safe.

She loved Jesus more than anyone I knew and would share with anyone and everyone about him . . . whether they wanted to hear or not.  This is what she often did in those bus stations.  We saw people who weren’t safe, she saw people who needed Jesus. She was also known for occasionally jumping up in the middle of a sermon letting the preacher and everyone in the church know how much she loved Jesus and how thankful she was for him.

But there wasn’t just a new fear for my grandmother’s safety.  There was a new fear for my own.  If God had not protected my grandmother, who loved him so dearly, how could I trust him to keep me safe?

Thus began my journey into a binding fear.  For many months I did not want to be alone in our apartment.  I would sit in Kenny’s office while he worked until he was ready to go home.  The only way to enter our apartment was through the front door or one window.  If I had to be there alone, I would sit in a chair where I could see both and wait for Kenny to come home.

I searched the scriptures for a verse or story that would guarantee my safety.  There were stories of deliverance, but there were also stories of beatings and death.  I wanted someone to tell me that if I did certain things, followed certain rules, nothing like this would happen to me, but it wasn’t there.  I couldn’t find, and no one could give me the sense of security I desperately wanted.

The worst part was that for as long as I could remember I had found my security in the Word and in my relationship with God and now I had no source of comfort. No sanctuary. No peace. I didn’t understand I had previously built my foundation on sinking sand – on a false idea that I could put God in my debt.  I felt God had abandoned my grandmother, that I couldn’t trust him not to abandon me and as a result, I wanted to abandon him . . . but he would not let me go.

I remember another call in the middle of the night, but this was not by phone.  It was my heart calling, crying out to God in my anger and fear.  I told him I thought he was a rotten God and that I didn’t want anything to do with him.  The odd thing was, the more I unleashed my spiteful words, the more he seemed to draw near.  Looking back, I was like a child throwing a tantrum and God, the Father, wrapped his arms around me and held on until the ranting stopped and the calm set in.

It was a turning point.  Although it would take time, and there were many more days and nights of fear and not so pretty, well let’s be honest, ugly prayers to come, God began to build a new foundation. A faith more solid and secure.  A faith that didn’t completely fall apart when God didn’t act in the way I wanted.  A faith that could weather the storms, not that water wouldn’t get in the boat or the sails were never torn, but I wouldn’t be capsized.

I would be lying if I said fear is no longer an issue.  It still rears its ugly head – especially when it comes to my children.  But I’ve learned and am still learning . . . God Is Enough.

In the twentieth chapter of John we see the disciples gathered in a locked room because they were afraid. Jesus came to them in their fear and said, “Peace be with you.”

He didn’t say it just once.

Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

The amazing thing is those same men who were hiding in fear were later able to be sent out, to endure persecution and even to die for Jesus. They no longer lived in fear. What made the difference?

“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:20)

They saw the risen Lord, his wounds, and they received the Holy Spirit.  This same Holy Spirit who transformed the disciples into men of courage resides in us and can transform us as well.  Transformation isn’t quick or easy, but it is possible.

I know. I’ve experienced it and continue to experience it.

Peace be with you.

Tami Lowman

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Just One More

In order to be satisfied with Jesus I have to come to him, empty, humble, longing for His filling, aware that I can’t produce it. I have to be willing to wait. To be still.

New York is not a good place for someone who has a weakness for scarves. Beautiful, soft, warm scarves are everywhere. It’s easy for me to justify buying them because it is cold, therefore I NEED them.

I posted about this once on Facebook. One sweet friend commented that we were kindred spirits.  She had about 15 scarves.  I grimaced.  Fifteen.  That didn’t sound like many to me but she thought it was a lot.  Did I dare count?  I did.  I also had 15 . . . x3!

Now some of these are spring/summer scarves and some are fall/winter scarves. Some aren’t really in style now but I keep them because they might come back in style. I know for a fact this can happen because I have had one scarf since I was in college over thirty years ago and have just recently started wearing it again.  I believe it would be considered “vintage” now.  And I didn’t buy all of them.  Friends and family who are aware of this love have bought many of them. . .well several, at least and they come from all over the world.  One dear friend didn’t actually give me a scarf.  I stole it from her at one of those Dirty Santa parties.  Now you need to know, I don’t usually do that.  Normally if there is something I like I’ll just let the person who has it, keep it.  But not that scarf.  I took it.

We recently visited the Rockefeller Center to view the famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink.  The view from the top of that building is one of our favorites in the city.  At the height of his incredible personal wealth in the oil industry John D. Rockefeller was asked how much is enough?  He responded, “One more dollar.”

I’d love to be critical of that answer, but my natural tendency is to live by the same principle.  How many scarves are enough?  Apparently not 45 because when I was in NYC recently I kept getting distracted by all the vendors along the sidewalks with scarves and had to will myself to keep walking.  Just one more? And it’s not just scarves.  How many decorative pillows are enough?  Just one more.  How many peppermint Oreos are enough?  Just one more.  How many?  How much? Just one more?

A couple of months after we brought our youngest daughter and son home from Haiti we were walking into a store to look for some boots for our daughter.  Our son dramatically declared, “We’re buying boots for her and nothing for me?  I don’t have ANYTHING!”

I stopped in mid-stride, turned and looked at him.  I knew by the look on his face he knew he had said the wrong thing.  I reminded him that four months earlier when he lived in an orphanage in Haiti, he had nothing.  But now he had a lot of things.

It was also a good reminder for me that getting doesn’t necessarily satisfy our appetites, it often feeds them.

In Mike Wilkerson’s book Redemption, he talks about satisfaction.

Those who chased Jesus for more bread failed the test of manna, just as their forefathers in the wilderness did thousands of years earlier.  They still failed to see that Jesus himself is the bread of eternal life . . . We are often just like them, wanting Jesus only because we think he will satisfy some other desire we bring to him or that he will make us look like we lead satisfying lives, rather than wanting him to be our satisfaction.

Ouch.

Wilkerson also says this:

“Yet we cannot simply will ourselves to be satisfied in Jesus.  Just as it is impossible to put sin to death except by the Spirit, so it is impossible to see Jesus as the bread of life except by the Spirit.”

I managed to will myself to walk past those scarves, but I can’t will myself to be satisfied with Jesus. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just declare, “I will no longer find my satisfaction in ________.  From now on I will be completely satisfied with Jesus alone,” and make it so.  I wish it worked like that, but in order to be satisfied with Jesus I have to come to him, empty, humble, longing for His filling, aware that I can’t produce it.  I have to be willing to wait.  To be still.  Truth is, it’s easier to go buy a scarf, but in the end it won’t do.  Only Jesus truly satisfies. Psalm 63 says this:

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water. . .
 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
 I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.

I’m praying for myself, my family, my church and for you. . . For the Bride of Christ to find complete satisfaction in our Groom, who is Enough.

Tami Lowman

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Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is one of my favorite Christmas carols. I’m not exactly sure when I become so fond of this hymn, but I am certain it was as an adult, when life and Christmas got farther and farther away from rest.

This song wouldn’t necessarily have appealed to me as a child. Those were the days when time seemed to take its sweet time; when the year between birthdays and Christmas seasons felt like an eternity; when I bemoaned going to bed at night, begging to stay up just another 10 minutes. A nap? Why would anyone want to take a nap?  During those years, I had the energy to go dashing through the snow and rock around the Christmas tree. Now there are years I don’t have the time or energy to even put up a Christmas tree.

Is it any wonder that as life grew busier I felt myself drawn to this song –  and especially to the word rest.  Rest was what I craved and it seemed ever evasive, especially during Christmas.

Fortunately, what I desire can be found in the lyrics of this carol.

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

Why do we observe and celebrate Christmas? Because Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day.

Why was he born on Christmas day? To save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we had gone astray.

Talk about tidings of comfort and joy! No wonder that phrase is repeated three times: Comfort and Joy!

I was the one who went astray. I was the one under Satan’s power, but Christ came to save me! There is nothing that can bring me more comfort or joy.

Notice also the word Remember.

We need to remember, ironically, it can seem, more at Christmas than any other time of the year. If we don’t pause and remember we will experience the season as though we are still under Satan’s power.

It is the lie of Satan to tell me my house needs to look just so, I need to look just so, my kids need to look just so and have so, so much to open on Christmas morn. It is the lie of Satan that I have to attend every event and party. It is the lie of Satan that I am not enough. It is the lie of Satan that I cannot have joy even if my circumstances would seem to indicate that God has forgotten me or there is nothing to celebrate this year. These lies can leave me dismayed and restless, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

We must remember in order to rest.

I can rest because I have been redeemed from Satan’s power. There is nothing that can separate me from my Father’s love. He will never leave me or forsake me. I can rest because a child was born, a son was given, and the government will be on his shoulders. He is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6).

I can rest because he took up my pain and bore my suffering. He was pierced for my transgressions and crushed for my iniquities. The punishment that brought me peace was on him and by his wounds I am healed. (Isaiah 53)

I don’t have to do it all, have it all, get it all or be it all. I won’t be dismayed. I will cling to tidings of comfort and joy.

 

I will remember . . . and rest.

Tami Lowman

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Look Up

Look Up

Last summer in Haiti, a group of us decided to hike over a mountain to visit a neighboring town.  About 15 minutes into our journey, it began to rain. It wasn’t hard enough to cause us to turn back, just a misty drizzle that made everything wet, including the road we were walking.

I was the oldest in the group, and the slowest. The road was uneven, full of ruts, potholes, loose gravel and patches of slippery asphalt.  In my effort to keep up with the group, not twist an ankle or go sliding down the mountain, I kept my head down and watched every step.  The strategy was effective. I was progressing injury free, but there was one problem – I was completely missing the beautiful scenery around me. We were in one of my favorite areas of Haiti and all I was aware of, step by step, was the treacherous path before me.

Life can be like that sometimes. It feels a bit treacherous. It seems like everyone else is further up the path as we struggle, slowly plodding along in an effort to avoid injury. There is nothing wrong with being cautious in these situations, a tumble down a mountain can be painful. The problem comes when we are so fixed on the path that we fail to look up and we miss the beauty around us.

Or maybe our eyes are too often fixed on a screen. Our heads are down looking at email, Facebook or Instagram and we miss the beauty of the people around us.

Consider these sobering words from Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

“It’s easier to face your phone than to face your life.”

Ouch. It can be easier to face my phone than the seemingly never ending list of things that need to be done or a difficult situation that I would prefer not to deal with. But even worse, it can be easier to face my phone than the person beside me.

On this trip to Haiti we stayed in the small village of Calabasse, located on a mountainside. Each evening we sat on the porch and gazed at the stars. Very few in this area have electricity, so there were no competing lights. Only the magnificent stars. And they were magnificent. We all tried to take pictures, but no photo could capture the incredible, stunning view we were experiencing.

We looked up. We worshipped. We looked at each other. We connected through vulnerable conversations.

But then we came home, and most likely all of us started looking down again.  We’ve neglected the words of Isaiah:

Look up at the sky! Who created all these heavenly lights? He is the one who leads out their ranks; he calls them all by name. Because of his absolute power and awesome strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26

I was reminded of this principle of “looking up” recently while I was walking through our neighborhood. Once again my head was down, listening to a podcast as I walked along.  I began to notice and admire the exquisite colors of the leaves that had fallen and were strewn across the road. I marveled at the various shades of red, yellow and orange as well as the array of sizes and shapes of the leaves.

But eventually, it occurred to me, “These leaves didn’t start out on the ground. They came from the trees.” I stopped and looked up and discovered tall, magnificent trees with sunlight streaming through branches brimming with brilliant color.

When I lifted my eyes, I experienced a bigger, unbounded beauty.

I wish I could say I’ve got it now. I’ve internalized this lesson and won’t have to be reminded of it again, but I will. Fortunately, I serve a God of absolute power and awesome strength who sits enthroned on the heavens, yet lovingly looks down on me and whispers, “Look up.”

Tami Lowman

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Perfection(ism) is My Enemy

Broken Together

I got a couple dents in my fender

Got a couple rips in my jeans,”

I once texted those lyrics from Free to Be Me by Francesca Battistelli to our oldest daughter.  She had received a car for graduation less than 6 months earlier and had just been in her second accident.  She seemed to have somehow missed the lesson on blind spots or she was distracted on that day or something . . . but at that point she was discouraged.  Because she loved this song, I knew exactly how she would respond to my text:

“Try to fit the pieces together

But perfection is my enemy.”

Perfection is my enemy.  I found myself singing those lyrics again a few months later as I worked on a project.  I had two canvases I wanted to hang above our bed.  I wanted the words, “Broken Together” painted on them.  If you haven’t heard this song by Casting Crowns you should listen to it.  REALLY. It is a song that greatly ministered to me and my husband as we were going through a time of great brokenness and we have continued to try to hold on to its truths.

“Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete.
Could we just be broken together?
. . . The only way we’ll last forever is broken together.”

I had considered having a friend who is much better at lettering, paint the canvases for me, but there was a part of me that felt I should do it myself.  I was very hesitant, however, because I knew it wasn’t going to look as good if I did it.  It wouldn’t be perfect.

Sure enough my perfectionist tendencies kicked in as I was painting.  At one point I was in tears, painted over everything I had done and started over.  It was during my second attempt that I found myself singing those Free to Be Me lyrics, “perfection is my enemy.”

You’ve probably already picked up on the irony of this, but I was a little slow.  I was literally painting the word BROKEN and was trying not to get frustrated because it was not perfect when it finally hit me . . . brokenness and perfection can’t coexist.  I was going to have to decide which one I was going to embrace; it couldn’t be both.  I chose broken.

Now at that point I didn’t just start slapping the words on the canvas with no thought or care, but I did let go of the need for it to be just right and stopped trying to correct every little mistake.  And there were mistakes – parts that weren’t just right, but these became reminders that I am not just right either.  Neither is my spouse.  Neither is our marriage.

Later I found myself in tears again, but this time they were not tears of frustration but tears of gratitude.  I had been painting in the garage and brought the canvases inside.  I set them up in a window sill in the kitchen to finish drying.  I was getting some water at the sink, turned to look at the paintings and right there between the O and K, I saw it. . . a cross.  The frame of the canvas had a vertical piece in the middle and there was a random streak of darker paint going across and as the light came through the window you could see it – the cross.

I said earlier that brokenness and perfection cannot coexist, but that is not entirely true.  There is a place where they coexist beautifully.  On the cross the body of Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life, was broken for my sin.  He who knew no sin, became sin, so that I could receive his righteousness.  (2 Corinthians 5:21) Because Christ, the perfect, sinless, spotless lamb chose to be broken and die for my sin, I am now viewed by my Heavenly Father as righteous, redeemed, perfect.

Actually, now that I’ve thought more about all this, I’m going to have to retract my previous statement.   Perfection and brokenness can coexist. They coexist in me.  Christ has given me his perfect standing with the Father, but as long as I live on this earth, brokenness will be a part of who I am.  I am broken and my world is full of broken people . . . as a matter of fact, my house is full of broken people and my church as well.

What can’t coexist is perfectionism and brokenness.  The more I try to live up to a standard of perfectionism, to appear as though I have it all together, the more likely I am to miss the deep community God desires for me to have with others and there is a strong chance relationships will be broken apart.

There is a difference between a broken relationship and being broken together.  I know this too well.  When we’re broken together we come alongside one another admitting our own weaknesses and encouraging our brothers and sisters in theirs as we walk through this broken world together.  There is a big difference.  It’s the difference between isolation and loneliness and deep, fulfilling relationships.

 “The only way we’ll last forever is broken together.” 

Broken Together

*I did go back and paint the cross into the picture.

Tami Lowman

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The Glory Our Hearts Long For

What is the glory that our hearts long for?

When you work in a church plant, you wear multiple hats.  When your staff and resources are limited, sometimes you have to give a hand in areas that are not necessarily your gifting or calling.  The past two Sundays, I led worship on one of our campuses.  I love praise and worship music, I enjoy singing, I love to harmonize, but I am not a great vocalist.  I can assure you I am not just being modest; it is the truth.  But we have recently lost leadership in this area and others were unavailable so I needed to step out of my comfort zone for a couple of weeks in order to step up to help.

To make sure I was prepared, I committed to singing through the upcoming songs twice a day. One night I got in bed pretty late after having stayed up to watch the Olympics. I was just about to drift into sleep, when I realized I had only gone over the songs once that day.  I was tired, but wanted to follow through on my commitment to be prepared, so I got up and began to sing:

There’s nothing worth more

That could ever come close

No thing can compare

You’re our living hope . . .

Wait. Nothing worth more that could ever come close? No thing can compare? Not even winning a gold medal?

. . . Your glory God is what our hearts long for . . .

Stop. Your glory God is what our hearts long for?  Hmm, I’m not sure about that.

I had seen a lot of glory moments during the Olympics.  Goals, sacrifices, hard work and unrelenting devotion paying off in the glorious moment of winning gold.  I’d watched athletes radiate joy, raise their hands in victory, embrace those who walked the journey with them, dance, celebrate and shed tears as they were overwhelmed with gratitude.  I’d been caught up in the emotions of it even sitting in my living room across the world.

I began to wrestle with those lyrics. . . Your glory God is what our hearts long for . . . I wasn’t seeing evidence that our hearts long for God’s glory.  I was positive my own heart longs for my glory, not God’s.

Then I remembered:

Our loudest desires are not our deepest desires.

My loudest desires are not my deepest desires.

It is my flesh that longs for my own glory. My flesh that sets itself on finding fulfillment in my stuff, my accomplishments, my, my, my, me, me, me. Those desires are loud and strong and easy to follow.

But perhaps my heart does long for something deeper. . . for God’s glory.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made after all.  I am created in his image so it would make sense that in my heart of hearts I would long for him and ultimately find a satisfaction, joy, fulfillment and contentment that lasts longer than my latest race or competition or fleeting moment on the podium of my glory.

It seems this deeper desire can get muffled or strangled by the bullying ways of my fleshly desires.  But if I could make it my goal, understand it’s worth every sacrifice, work hard and give it my unrelenting devotion maybe then  . . . oh wait, I know how that ends too.  I get a good start, make it over a few hurdles and then splat, I fall on my face.

Let’s try this another way.  Maybe if I start on my face before my Father, I remember it was his goal to bring me into a relationship with him, that he made the necessary sacrifice, that Jesus did the hard work on the cross and that he is devoted to me then I will radiate joy, raise my hands in victory, embrace those who walk this journey with me, dance, celebrate and shed tears overwhelmed with gratitude as he transforms me from glory to glory, his glory to glory.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Let us experience the glory of your goodness.

Because Your Glory God IS what our hearts long for.

Father, help us not to chase or settle for fleeting, self-glory, but let us find our deepest desires met in your life-sustaining, transforming Glory. Amen

*lyrics from Holy Spirit by Katie and Bryan Torwalt

Tami Lowman

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Little Orphan Me?

Not long ago we watched the movie, Annie.  This story took on a whole new meaning for me when we first adopted 12 years ago.  I had always liked the sweet, feel-good story, but when you’ve come face to face with orphans you can no longer view Annie purely as entertainment.  As you watch you see the faces of orphans and foster children you know.  As you listen to Annie speculate about what her parents might be like you remember this is reality for many children and you hear their longing.  And it always hurts.

I also think about the children sitting in the room with me.  I wonder what they are thinking.  They who were once orphans themselves.  Do they see their own story?  Do they ever marvel at it – that the dream of every orphan became reality for them? Do they understand that they were helpless to give themselves a family, there was nothing they could do? That someone had to come to them, take the initiative, make the sacrifice, do all that was necessary for them to become their children? Do they understand that they are deeply loved and every sacrifice was worth it?  Or does the fact that Kenny and I aren’t Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks or William Stacks with all that material wealth keep them from seeing it?  Without all the stuff, do they view being our children as enough?

But then I have to ask myself, do I see my own story?  Do I marvel at it – that the dream of every orphan became a reality for me?  Do I understand that I was helpless to save myself, there was nothing I could do?  That someone had to come to me, take the initiative, make the sacrifice, do all that was necessary for me to become His child? Do I understand that I am deeply loved and when Jesus looks at me he thinks I was worth it? Or does the fact that I don’t always get what I want, that life is sometimes difficult or painful keep me from seeing it?  Do I view being His child as enough?

I still remember the agony of the wait, waiting to bring children who were ours but were still across the world, home.  I would often sing this song:

I have a Father.

He calls me his own.

He’ll never leave me

No matter where I go.

He knows my name.

He knows my every thought.

He sees each tear that falls,

And hears me when I call.

He Knows My Name

by Tommy Walker

I had to remember that they had a Father who was watching them, caring for them, who saw each tear and would never leave them.  That was so important and is still because the truth is, being my child is not enough.  I can give children an earthly home, give them a name and a family, take away the label “orphan”, but ultimately I cannot be their savior. I’m not enough, but God the Father is.  He is big enough to meet every need, heal every wound, cleanse every stain, and hear every call.  Being His child is enough for them and is enough for me.

The apostle John marveled at this story:

See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! I John 3:1

We don’t have to wait for the sun to come out tomorrow, the Son has already come and our adoption is secure.

The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
 The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
(Psalm 118)

Named and called and counted!  Praise the Father, so we are!

Tami Lowman

Read more from Tami @Lowmans on Long Island

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Words You Don’t Want to Hear from Your Counselor

“I’ve been looking back at my notes from our first session and I have to tell you, all the transitions you’ve been through over the last ten years make my head spin.”

I’ll never forget hearing those words from a counselor about eighteen months ago.  My first thoughts:

“Makes her head spin? That doesn’t sound good. I don’t think those are words you want to hear from your counselor. . . Wait.

This is good. These are exactly the words I need to hear from my counselor.”

Relief!  When I had looked back, I thought it all seemed like a lot, but maybe I was just a whiner or it was all in my head.  But now a professional who dealt with all kinds of issues had confirmed, it had been a lot.

Fortunately, several of those transitions had not been under bad circumstances.  There were adoption transitions.  Transitions we chose, but were nevertheless extremely challenging as our family adjusted to new members, new rhythms, new needs.  Then there were those children who insisted on growing up and going away.  That was all well enough for them, but as a parent it was a bit like having your heart dug out with a spoon.

Eighteen months after that counseling session we are still transitioning. New home, new church, new neighbors, new friends, new roads, new schools, new culture, new jobs, new roles, new learning.  There are days it makes my head spin.

A little spin can be fun, but how do you keep from spinning out of control?

You stop.

But it has to be a real stop, not a pause where you stop just long enough to get your bearings and then start spinning again.

You have to stop long enough to steady yourself, regain your balance, be still . . .and be quiet.

I haven’t written much lately.  As I’ve started a new job and a life coaching class, my time has been more limited.  I’ve known I needed to sit down and write, but I’ve given in to the pressure of one more thing to do, one more email to answer, one more chapter to read.

A few people have asked. I was beginning excuse myself by saying perhaps writing was only for a short season – just until I transitioned into a different role.  It’s not like ideas were exactly flowing through my head, but there was a reason for that and I preferred to avoid asking why. I knew why.

Too much spinning. Too few stretches of stillness.

People have said, “Keep writing. You have a gift.”

That comment always causes me to pause.  A gift? Shouldn’t you enjoy gifts? Shouldn’t they be easy?

Writing is neither particularly enjoyable nor easy for me. One page can take up a good half day, often more, seldom less. It requires me to slow down in a way I don’t like. It requires sitting still – not just physically. My heart has to be still as well.

I recently listened to a coaching session in my life coaching class. I was surprised to find I felt uneasy most of the session. I had already learned that life coaching looks nothing like I originally thought it did.  I had assumed it would be similar to discipling or mentoring, both of which have more of a teacher/student relationship with one giving knowledge, advice, or guidance to another.  As a teacher and trainer I am comfortable with those roles. But Life Coaching is more about listening and asking thoughtful questions to help someone move forward from where they are to where God wants them to be without giving advice or guidance.

So, going into the session I knew life coaches mainly ask questions, I was expecting that. What I wasn’t expecting was the stretches of silence. Now when I say “stretches” I am talking around 10 seconds.

You may laugh.  But the next time someone asks you a question, wait 10 seconds to answer and see what happens.

It felt so awkward.  I wanted to jump in.  Sometimes the coach asked a question and it took a while for the client to formulate an answer.  I wanted to rescue the client and answer for him.  Sometimes after the client answered the question, the coach would pause before responding and asking a follow-up question. I wanted to interject a question for the coach to keep the conversation moving . . . but in reality, it was moving, I just couldn’t hear it.

Afterwards, our class was reminded, there is a third person in every coaching session, the Holy Spirit, and we have to give him time to speak. Time to speak to the client. Time to speak to the coach.

We have to give the Holy Spirit time to speak.  We have to learn to listen in the silence.

He is the True Counselor who provides words of love, direction, conviction, comfort and healing. Those are words I definitely want and need to hear. The presence and voice of the Holy Spirit is a gift, but learning to experience and hear him is not always easy. It requires time, and stillness, and quiet.

But he’s the gift that reassures me the world is not spinning out of control. That in the midst of every transition there is a constant. It’s a gift worth slowing down, being still and waiting for.

Be Still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Tami Lowman

Read more from Tami @Lowmans on Long Island

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From Start to Finish

From Start to Finish

Our youngest daughter recently had a rough week.  She remembered to pick up flyers about a fundraiser for a church family that she wanted to take to school, but she forgot to actually take the flyers to school. She remembered to tell us her track team was having dinner together one evening, but forgot to tell us she needed to take something to the dinner until 9:30 p.m. the night before. She remembered to take her track uniform to school the day of the meet, but forgot money to be able to eat. To top it off, at the meet she had to run an event she had never run before, got confused, and stopped running before she got to the finish line.

Getting started is one thing, finishing is another.

In all fairness I must say that most of the time this daughter is very responsible, and when it comes down to it, I must confess there have been many times I have not finished well.  I have started a project, task, to-do list or working toward a new goal with excitement and enthusiasm, only to fizzle out before it was finished.  Sometimes I lost interest. Other times I bogged down when the task proved to be harder or take longer than expected.  Many times the urgencies of daily life took priority and it was either set aside or forgotten.

Ironically, this morning I started writing a different blog post, but couldn’t figure out how to finish it, so I abandoned it and started this one, which hopefully I will finish since I do have a deadline coming up.

I recognize I have let things remain undone, incomplete, unfinished.  But I am so very thankful this is not the nature of God!

I love these words the prophet Isaiah uses to describe the coming Christ, the Obedient Servant:

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore, I have set my face like a stone,
    determined to do his will.

Jesus lived a life determined to do his Father’s will and he consistently spent time alone with the Father in order to do so (Luke 5:16).  He did not abandon his task when it got hard, when the disciples were slow to understand what he was about, when it was painful. He did not let the urgencies of the day distract him from his ultimate mission.  He saw it through to the deadly end.

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.  When Jesus had tasted it, he said, It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30

Even now, because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, I can rest in his work and redemption, knowing it’s not all up to me.

I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

God will continue his work in me until it is finally finished. Such rest and freedom and grace are found in those words.

But wait, that’s not all!  Look at what John reveals is coming when Christ Jesus does return in the ultimate finish:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”  And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.  All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21:1-7

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega.

The Beginning and the End.

From Genesis to Revelation,

From Start to Finish

He leaves nothing incomplete or unfinished . . . not even me.

 

Tami Lowman

Read more from Tami @https://ktlowman.wordpress.com

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